If It’s Friday, It’s Time For A USC Notes Column

USC’s offensive line has been a sore spot for several seasons but here is what Clay Helton said this week:

“This is a group that really have been waiting, just watch them grow up, and now they’re in their third year, and you can see their confidence and them controlling the offense.”

Say what?

Outside of left tackle Austin Jackson, who has shown potential, who can you point to as a bona-fide, quality lineman? No one.

The best thing they have going for them is not having to pass block as long in the Air Raid offense. But they have yet to demonstrate they are ready for prime time.

  • Last weekend, I mentioned Ronnie Lott and Anthony Munoz were among the players who attended John Robinson‘s farewell send-off to LSU.

I’ve since heard many more names: Mike Rae, Marv Williams, Gordon Adams, Duaine Jackson, John Mazur, Troy West, Joe Cormier, Joe Murray, Tim Shannon and Mike McDonald.

Former Rams included Jackie Slater and Nolan Cromwell. Former USC and Rams assistant Gil Haskell was also in attendance.

  • One story that night involved Vince Evans playing quarterback in 1976. Robinson’s decision to start Evans, who was African-American, ruffled some feathers at the university and insiders believed Robinson might be fired if he did not win the Pac-8 Conference title and Rose Bowl that season.
  • USC lost its opener to Missouri, 46-25, at the Coliseum. But the Trojns then won 11 straight, including a 14-3 victory over No. 3 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. USC finished No. 2 in the AP and UPI polls.
  • Helton was asked about restricing media access this season, which includes him being unavailable on Wednesdays.

“I want our student-athletes to be able to concentrate on their job and focus on their job when it’s time for them to work,” Helton said.

None of the new policies actually involves the players. Just Helton speaking less to the media. So, as usual, his answer above makes little sense.

  • Does anyone remember that USC safety Ykili Ross is still in the transfer portal?
  • In last week’s column, I mentioned quarterbacks who never really played at USC but transferred or switched positions. I forgot to mention Bill Redell, who earned a scholarship to USC but transferred to Occidental in 1962 and then played six seasons in the Canadian Football League.

57 thoughts on “If It’s Friday, It’s Time For A USC Notes Column

  1. This doesn’t sound accurate – Jimmy Jones, an African-American quarterback, had already quarterbacked the 1969 team you’ve been (properly) giving so much attention to that went 10-0-1 and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl…

    From what I recall at the time, the issue wasn’t the color of his skin, it was his woeful passing performance (coming out of a period where USC had went something like 42-3-2 with two national championships, including a 7-0 start the previous season that fizzled, coinciding with McKay’s announced departure) – the team essentially couldn’t complete a forward pass, and defenses simply ganged up on Ricky Bell (who still almost managed a 2000 yard NCAA record season)…it was said that Evans “couldn’t throw a pass into the Grand Canyon”…

    Robinson, according to Pat Haden, had attempted as an offensive assistant to improve the Trojan passing game in 1974, but after an early season loss to Arkansas, McKay put the kabosh on that until the Notre Dame “earthquake” and Ohio State Rose Bowl 2 point conversion victories…but Robinson as the new head coach brought in a young quarterback/offense guru named Paul Hackett to work with Evans and supposedly told him “If you struggle, Rob Hertel is ready to take your job…”

    The Mizzou loss was a shock (and cost them the national championship as it turned out), but Evans played lights out the rest of the season (and Hertel racked up some pretty good numbers as a backup) and, if you re-read the Sports Illustrated accounts of the UCLA and Rose Bowl, ended up, due to his passing and nifty feet, being the catalyst for the team’s success…leading to a long, if not illustrious, professional career…

    Interestingly, one wonders how well the changes in the sport would suit a young Vince Evans now (I suspect he would be a superstar in the modern athletic QB-centric offenses)…

    Which brings us full circle to the current debate over the relative merits of JT v. Jack…

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Nice recap and correct. Evans was a poor passer and so was Jimmy Jones. McKay choose Jones over Holmgren because he wanted a mobile QB not a drop back pro type passer. In those days, USC had great offensive lines and ran a run heavy offense. Think of the tailbacks back then. (OJ, Clarence Davis, Ricky Bell, AD) coupled with a really good OL. Who needs to pass? Those were the good ole days. For those folks all pumped up about an “air raid” offense, you still have to have good offensive linemen and have to run the ball. I am not convinced, we will see in 35 days or so.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. In 1975 Evans played a lot. He was not the best at all. In 1976, he improved so much that he took them to the Rose Bowl.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. Linkster-I am in the camp with you and some other that are highly skeptical of the Air Raid and am taking a “wait and see” attitude…realize I don’t know everything, but…I don’t see this restoring the program to where it should be…if it is successful, I still see it as topping out at 10-2 Pac-12 title dates and nothing more…it isn’t what’s required to defeat a top opponent, which is what the history of USC football is…but, maybe I’m wrong…I just don’t want to see the program go down the path of 8-4 mediocrity…

        So, by all means…play out the experiment, and I hope you succeed…but understand success means playing for and winning national championships, not 11-3 with blowout loss to not that great of an Ohio State team in the Cotton Bowl…

        In those former days – one of the things that made me love USC from Day 1 was that they did things that were sensible – as a general matter, play physical, run, hit, manhandle…but they were never bull-headed about it (and actually that was part of what was apparently a known disdain/dislike McKay had with Woody Hayes)…

        They were forward thinking, passed more than most teams, adopted what was considered a radical offense (the I formation), and then in the early ’70s, and again this is according to quotes attributable to Haden (and I think it was Allan Graf in a documentary I acquired), John Robinson’s arrival (and he bounced between USC and the Raiders when Oakland was USC varsity plus and were a powerhouse) led to McKay accepting some tinkering with the basic run heavy offense as teams had learned how to better defend the I (since according to several sources, McKay essentially ran what amounted to variations on two plays based on the skills of the tailback, and mixed in the occasional play action pass if it was set up)…

        Graf in the documentary says something about how McKay got pissed at halftime of the 1973 Rose Bowl (11-0 USC in 7-7 tie with despised Woody-coached Buckeyes who he really wanted to pay back for the Rose Bowl four years earlier) because all of the clever little wrinkles they had put into the game plan weren’t working and just went “**** that, we’re going back to doing what got us here…” second half 35-10 going away.

        The Haden reference is to him saying that they lost a game at Arkansas at the beginning of the 1974 season and he had a terrible game passing…so McKay put a halt to some of those experiments…until he needed them, because the 55-24 earthquake game against Notre Dame was predicated, at least on the offensive side, on passing…and they threw the ball well in the Rose Bowl comeback win over Woody…

        Liked by 5 people

      3. James – re: Air Raid. You are correct, that offense will not win championships. I don’t see Alabama or Clemson running that offense. Ball control, physical beat down OL football with a passing game is what gets the job done IMO. It is absolutley criminal the USC has totally ignored the OL. Wide receivers and QB’s wont get it done IMO. Who knows about the defense this as well. 35 days and we might get some answers. Peace…

        Liked by 4 people

      4. And remember that during the 1970-71 seasons, the Trojan went 6-4-1 with Jones starting over Mike Rae. Rae might not have made a difference but he started in 1972 and led one of the 5 best college teams of all time to a 12-0 national championship season. Also he kicked field goals and PATs.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. James —I’m sure you’re one of the guys who can appreciate what I am about to say —-Vince Evans wasn’t just an athletic quarterback. I remember one of the L. A. Times beat reporters saying, “you could see in his eyes, the light was always on” (translation: he was a savvy player). I’m not at all convinced that Sears is a savvy player. Listen to Russell Wilson or Tom Brady or, for that matter, Tua Tagovailoa —they give quick analysis when they are called on to do it but they are also capable of giving thoughtful, deliberative answers when they feel that’s required. In short, on top of being gifted throwers, they’re ‘all around’ smart leaders. The Sears supporters need to listen more carefully to the lame answers he gives to simple questions. He’s never gonna be a top notch player. He’s not enough of a student of the game. And, though he has quick feet, he’s not quick enough upstairs. When you’re playing QB an extra quarter second figuring where the ball oughta go is a big deal.
      P. S.
      Evans sure was throwing passes into the Grand Canyon when he bombed the hell outta Notre Dame.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. MG-yes, to have such a long professional career (even if mostly as a backup), there was more than just quick feet and a strong arm to Vince’s game…in thinking about this after the initial post, it struck me that Wolfie had almost mixed up Evans/Hertel/USC for Haden/Harris/Rams (in the latter, there is substantial evidence that race was a factor in decision-making, and it led to a rupture not only in the locker room, but also between the coach and ownership)…one of those “no way to know” what-if games, but I’m pretty certain that Vince Evans would be a star in the league the way the game is played now (if you go back and watch replays of the those games in 1976, it’s neat to watch what were then considered “pro passing wrinkles” that Hackett and Robinson introduced to the USC offense – little sprint draw action and naked half boots with long and short options…not so different than what a lot of the current passing offenses used, although primitive by comparison)…

        I honestly haven’t listened to enough actual interview material of Sears and Daniels – I only go off what I saw last year…I know you know enough about football that I trust that there’s something to what you’re saying…I’m pretty certain Daniels has the job no matter what, unless he gets injured or they get off to a 1-3 start (and Clay thinks “hey, maybe we can catch lightning in a bottle like we did with Sam”…except of course neither of these two are anywhere close to Sam, and hardly anyone knew how good he was until he got on the field at Utah)…

        Hopefully for the sake of the current players, the decision, whatever it may be, provides the best chance of achieving whatever success they are currently configured to achieve…

        Liked by 4 people

      2. MG-
        Your point is spot on as to QB intelligence (and of the type that facilitates radical analysis and execution…ie two snap wrist snap throw to hot read, based on assessment of the defensive matchup presented pre-snap, based on film study and game planning)…it’s the sine qua non (the “better” way of running a fullback dive on first down) of modern offense…along with the QB being mobile to “add the extra attacker that can’t be accounted for…” and being smart enough to know when to, when not to…
        Modern defenses are too damned athletically gifted and fast (the discussion about how in over a century, the players are so much bigger, faster, quicker, et al, but the field has remained the same in dimensions…how do you defeat that? Answer? Get as fast and big as you can, and accelerate your attack pulse through scheme so that you can exploit increasingly diminished spaces)…

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Fact: Intelligence and the ability to speak don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, they could be considered separate intelligences. Lastly, Moses was such a bad speaker that he needed Aaron to go with him when he confronted Pharaoh.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Arturo —I don’t quibble with your general proposition (you can be plenty smart w/o being silver tongued) but I’m not sure that it applies to Sears. Just as a random example, a few Olympics ago an American fencer was telling local news, “I’m not going to the games in order to lose —I’m going in order to win.” When pressed why he thought he could take the Gold from the Russians, French, Italians, he reiterated “cuz I’m going in order to win —losing is not an option.” All listening were thinking the same thought —“this kid is gonna get wiped out.” Sears talks this way. He impresses me as a very gifted athlete who doesn’t have a thought in his head. [And I bet that’s why he underwhelms his coaches].

        Liked by 3 people

      5. Linkster – we also had some great fullbacks. Sam the Bam, Rickie Bell, Lynn Cain, Dave Farmer, Dan Scott, Marcus Allen, Mike Hull.

        Liked by 5 people

      6. 1-Arturo-very good point…and there are people who don’t articulate outwardly what they are capable of thinking so they can come across as not as smart when they really are super smart (in Andrew Chaikin’s book about the Apollo project, since that is so much in the news now, he describes John Young that way – and he only flew on Apollo 10 to the moon, commanded the landing on 16, and flew the first full space shuttle mission!)…
        2-MG – Also good point – if true, wouldn’t be first time we’ve seen that (and I sure hope it’s that rather than, as others have pointed out, the product of, for whatever reason, CH being blinded by JT)…
        3-’70s-Excellent list (would add Ben Wilson and Mosi Tatupu)…

        Liked by 3 people

      7. Pudly-yes those offensive schemes were very creative in getting the most out of the talent…remember Pete and Norm had been using variations of that going all the way back to at least David Kirtman and Brandon Hancock…

        One more I’d add to the list – Todd Spencer

        Liked by 2 people

      8. MG- Good stuff, maestro. Your observations on JS are verr valid; I’m sure you are well trained in reading people, their motives, and their intelligence. I haven’t seen Sears being interviewed, so I haven’t gottten a read on him. It is a good that the offense isn’t supposed to be very complicated and that it relies on the QB being instinctual. He or JT should be better this year ( I hope).

        Pud- You are correct, Moses never saw the promise land. I would contend that he didn’t because of disobedience, and not because he wasnt intelligent enough.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Ross is still in the transfer portal? Does it echo in there? Is the air thin in there? This portal sounds like an actual place, but in reality it’s jus a way for a player to hold a tantrum in public.
    “If you don’t do what I want I’ll go in the portal”
    The problem is being in the portal isn’t anything but a waste of time for some players. If nobody wants or needs you after a few weeks, you’ve poisoned the well from which your education was springing and you have no future but that which contrition brings. It is just under a week before football practice resumes at USC, Ross is now looking like the apple no one picked. I wonder if his scholarship is still good.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. “This is a group that really have been waiting, just watch them grow up, and now they’re in their third year, and you can see their confidence and them controlling the offense.” We can tell Helton went to UGLY for English classes. The word to be use should be “has” instead of have. In this instance group is being used a one who item, therefore it is singular. Have is meant to be used for more than one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure Clay Helton was even aware that he needed an offensive line, because he’s ignored it for 4 years. Between Bob Connelly, and Neil Calloway, USC has employed two of the worst offensive line coaches in the history of the school, which is why the program is just a shell of what it use to be .

    Liked by 5 people

    1. You said it yourself, Fred —no top O-line coach wants to work for Clay Helton…

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I hear ya ….& hindsight is 20/20 —but, in a perfect world, it would have been nice if (1) saying goodbye to Connelly and (2) refusing Callaway’s phone call were the first two things Coach Helton did…

        Liked by 3 people

  5. I don’t know why Scott is complains about the reduced media time with Helton. I think limiting Gomer’s access to the media is a good thing. It gives him more “time to review tape” and focus on the job at hand of “making the Trojan Nation happy”. Besides all he uttered was “golly” and “Shazam” (we’ll not really, but there was no value added to what came out of his mouth during the interviews).

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Calabasas —Rule of thumb: Anytime you hear a grown man doing a Shirley Temple “gee whiz” routine, you know you’re in the presence of a wholly evil person.
      btw —It just occurred to me why coaching legend John Robinson had to go: Every time Helton and/or Swann looked at him it made them feel small.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Kiffin, Sarkisian and Helton never gave two shits about bolstering the Trojans offensive line.

    Their incompetence didn’t just affect the passing game, the run game has been suffering as well.

    Helton has been the most incompetent when it comes to understanding the importance of having a strong offensive line because he had stuck with that idiot Neil Callaway fir nearly 3 years know damn well that idiot couldn’t coach worth a shit.

    Had no pressure been put on Helton to make changes to his coaching staff, he wouldn’t have done so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pudly —Just heard some disturbing news outta NCAA. Apparently, in order to deal with Meyer’s recruiting violations, they’re invoking their new “transferred intent” rule….

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You talk about bad memories…that one is the worst of all when I think of this past 10 years w(a/o)ndering in the desert…the shock and anger of the moment when it became clear Haden was not going to be St. Pat (and as it turns out, far less)…he thought he would be JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis and not give into the urgings of the national security elite to attack/invade, yet not adopt a completely appeasing position as urged by Adlai…but found out that the NCAA was a hell of a lot worse to deal with than (as it turns out, rather reasonable) communists…not walking the tightrope when your enemy has an agenda and is intent on destroying you…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Haden had the right INITIAL impulse, James: be a gentleman & make nice with the NCAA Appeals Board —but when they spit in his face and refused to even reduce our scholarship loss from 30 to 20 (or even 29 and a half), it should have been game on. Most smart people don’t want to get in fights in bars either —but when somebody throws a drink in your face it’s time to duck real low and throw a nice uppercut to the balls….

        Liked by 2 people

      3. MG
        Agreed about resolving disagreements without resort to hostilities…and I know you and others know this…with the exception of when you know the other party (or parties) has no intention of reciprocating…everyone but him (and Nikias and like) knew that this had nothing to do with what USC had done or not done, but was the NCAA carrying out the SEC agenda to destroy what they couldn’t beat…one attempt at a civil solution was enough under those circumstances…he needed to be prepared to immediately proceed (as Ohio State and others have done) to matching or exceeding their tactics…instead, in his arrogance, he acted, until it was too late as if they were going to bestow favored treatment upon him….his predecessor knew what was happening…most of us saw it…the MSM by that time was running nothing but hack job stories about USC (writers like Mandel – a preview of what we’ve seen in our national political situation)…part of why, despite how much I like Dan, I couldn’t continue to listen to the Peristyle…they even had Mandel on the show as if he was an old chum, when in fact he was one of the saboteurs…

        Liked by 3 people

      4. You remember even as early as 2006 they (the back then they included primarily SI and ESPN) began running hatchet stories about how USC didn’t deserve to be in the BCS title game, Auburn was unfairly left out in 2004, LSU was the 2003 national champion, blah, blah, blah…Mandel was one of them…believe Schlabach and Markazi were two of the other leading culprits, but there were others…in 2007 they began the SEC illogic-a-thon about how teams should be evaluated based who they lost to rather than who they beat (the SEC circular argument initiative they conned the public on, wherein SEC teams were the best because…they played each other?…yes, in the past few years, that has largely been true, but it’s always been a bit of a hoax, and the NFL results continually demonstrate that)…ie 2 loss LSU was more deserving than 2 loss USC because USC had a “bad” loss to Stanford…in 2008 same thing (a “bad” loss to Oregon State, so Florida must get the nod)…all a bunch of crap…

        Garrett and Pete saw what was happening…one, in his own type of arrogance, refused to believe that it would ever amount to anything…the other left for greener pastures…Haden somehow thought he could reason with that cabal…

        And USC (so by extension the entire Pac 12) has been badly tarnished/eroded…

        ESPN continues there nonsense – I’m sure you’ve all seen that they’ve been running a football factory final four…interestingly, all of the categories they employ has a particular program at the top (eg Hall of Famers, All Pros, Number 1 Draft Picks)…but it isn’t one of the four candidates! Only ESPN…SECESPN that is…

        And the condition of the program at present enables them to do that, and a short attention span public chows it down…


    1. Nice catch – and from what I’ve seen and read, Vince Evans is a great guy (and a good interview) – his back story is different and interesting (grew up as a kid watching USC on television in North Carolina and dreamed of going there)…

      Liked by 3 people

      1. If it were me, James, I wouldn’t have told Special K “nice catch.”

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Let me guess, it will be very harsh and to the extreme of punishment that no other school has seen, they will have 6 scholarships taken away in a 8 year span. “Da Horror”, cries Ohio St. fans

      Liked by 4 people

      1. You’re leaving the best part out, Pudly —along with the apology the NCAA will add 3 games to Ohio State’s win total …..and give them an extra National Championship.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. For the first time since he left Ohio State I have to come to grips with the thought “USC will not be seeing Coach Meyer on the sidelines. Ever.”

      Liked by 4 people

      1. “Oh, crap!! They have documentary evidence of WHAT?! Oh, brother —I better start rubbing my temples on the sidelines to set up my exit!”

        Liked by 3 people

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